UNHCR abandons refugees registered as journalists and human rights activists in Nepal

Refugees protest against UNHCR Nepal. (File Photo for representation only)
Refugees protest against UNHCR Nepal. (File Photo for representation only)

Journalists, human rights activists and political activists are receiving stepmotherly treatment at the hands of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Nepal during these unprecedented challenging times, when there’s worldwide lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

These human rights activists, journalists and political activists are duly registered with the UNHCR Nepal as urban refugees, and yet they have to face grave difficulties due to the lockdown to fight Coronavirus pandemic. This group of 20-22 urban refugees is finding it extremely difficult to sustain themselves and their family members since they have no means to buy food, they have no work permit and receive no monetary support from UNHCR Nepal to tide over these times of crisis.

It’s not that UNHCR Nepal is facing a paucity of funds, rather, UNHCR Nepal is making all efforts to help those refugees who have registered themselves with it as religiously persecuted refugees in Nepal. Around 600 religiously persecuted refugees have been registered with the UNHCR Nepal who have come in from Pakistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Sources told News Intervention that of the 600 ‘religiously persecuted’ refugees registered in UNHCR Nepal, around 370 are Pakistani Ahmadiyya Muslims, eleven are from Myanmar, four from Bangladesh and eighteen are from Sri Lanka. There are several Christian refugees as well in this group.

“A large number of refugees who have sought refuge in Nepal under religiously persecuted category came in due to economic hardship in their country of origin. They now own businesses and are economically well off,” a UN executive, speaking strictly on conditions of anonymity, told News Intervention.

The UNHCR Nepal did not respond to an email sent by News Intervention on this issue.

“We do not receive any financial support from UNHCR, nor food or shelter. Under normal circumstances we could manage it somehow but after this enforced lockdown to fight Coronavirus pandemic we simply do not know how long are we going to survive,” a human rights activist registered as a refugee with UNHCR said. Other human rights activist also told News Intervention that they do not understand why UNHCR gives a stepmotherly treatment to them when religious refugees receive a handsome monthly allowance, easy loans to start their own business and skill development courses.

Human rights activists, journalists and the political activists, who are now registered urban refugees, wish to have security, shelter and work permit so that they can sustain themselves and their family in Nepal. Yet even these basic requirements are not being fulfilled by the UNHCR Nepal.

In fact, the mandate of UNHCR is to ensure physical and legal protection of all urban refugees registered under it such that basic human rights of each refugee is protected while in Nepal. The UNHCR must also provide free access to basic healthcare and most importantly give a monthly subsistence allowance to all refugees.

It’s rather strange that UNHCR Nepal has been quite selective in doling out mandatory life saving assistance to the registered urban refugees. In the past, it offered undue favour upon several refugees registered under ‘religiously persecuted’ category by helping and expediting their resettlement to the developed Western nations.

“The manner in which some religiously persecuted refugees ‘resettled’ in the West must have raised suspicions and they (UNHCR) have now put a notice within their office premises that no refugee should pay any unaccounted cash to UNHCR Nepal executives to expedite their resettlement applications,” a political activist told News Intervention on conditions of anonymity.


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